RPA series: IFS - Up, up and RPAway!

This is a guest post for the Computer Weekly Developer Network written by Bob De Caux, director of AI and RPA at IFS.

IFS is known for its industrial cloud software deployments with a specific focus in areas including Field Service Management (FSM), Enterprise Asset Management (EAM) and Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems.

TechTarget defines Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is the use of software with Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning capabilities to handle high-volume, repeatable tasks that previously required humans to perform — these tasks can include queries, calculations and maintenance of records and transactions.

De Caux writes as follows…

The fastest-growing segment of the global enterprise software market, Robotic Process Automation (RPA) has proven itself to be a highly effective tool for transforming and streamlining the way organisations operate. But in the hype surrounding the technology, we shouldn’t over-estimate its capabilities.

In our own experience as a software company, we’ve found that RPA works well for our customers as a quick and easy way to integrate our software with other systems, especially in terms of replicating the GUI steps that users go through when moving data into or out of our software.

However, RPA providers have realised that going ‘end-to-end’ on a business process across multiple applications is very difficult. Despite clever advances that use AI-driven image recognition to improve flexibility, replicating the actions a user takes through a GUI is not robust to changes in the underlying software in the same way that interacting through an Application Programming Interface (API) would be.

Therefore, RPA will increasingly become about orchestration, maintaining simplicity by encapsulating defined API-driven interactions with software that perform clearly defined tasks as pieces that can be easily added dragged and dropped into RPA workflows.

The onus now will be on software companies (such as us) to create APIs that are easily consumable by RPA software, but it also creates an opportunity to provide more advanced process automation logic deeper within our products, which can take advantage of usage data and AI in a way that external RPA engines can never access. Through this approach, external RPA engines and internal process automation engines will start to work together more efficiently.

RPA combos are key

The evolution of RPA, therefore, hinges on how it’s utilised alongside other technologies.

RPA forms a key part of ‘intelligent automation’ along with Business Process Automation (BPA) and AI. Speaking from personal experience, we drive intelligent automation within our own software using a combination of effective BPA and machine learning to optimise process effectiveness, which while not traditionally thought of as RPA, has proven to be a highly effective method of automation.

As RPA adoption increases, we expect to see machine learning increasingly used on RPA-driven workflows to optimise processes across multiple systems.

When looking to RPA, businesses must look beyond just short-term efficiency gains and understand its potential as part of the broader technology ecosystem.

In doing this, they will be best placed to harness its full benefits, and go up, up and RPAway!

IFS’s De Caux: a ‘new RPA’ via a combination of BPA and machine learning to optimise process effectiveness.

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Do you plan to adopt Windows 8?
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pile of carp
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Windows 7 works well enough and retraining staff on Windows 8 is an unnecessary time investment.
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Just upgraded to Windows 7 last year.
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The new UI will cause adoption troubles.
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We are moving to adapt more of a tablet workforce over the next 2-3 years. This means a small test group of ipad, win8 and linus based tablets to see what works best in our environment. Once decided which is best then we will remove the experamental tablets and roll out the winner
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Windows 8 behaves as a play machine, toy, and a vertical platform. Win 8 will promote to use of Linux or Ubuntu for the serious user.

It is the pursuit of mediocrity, rather than excellence.
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The graph says it all "Not planning on windows 8 90.48%"
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I use several W8, and I give mark 5 !
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No Way...Can you say another Vista like lack of acceptance
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We absolutely have no plans to deploy W8. It would be madness to do so, and would almost certainly lead to a huge drop in productivity.
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Expenditures for all new hardware, learning curve & doesn't play well with non-touch - all of the above create a negative for us.
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I'm part of W8 early adopters group in our company. There are a lot of reasons to choose it over W7.
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We are testing application now with plan to deploy tablets as soon as hardware requiremnts are met. Decision to deploy to desktop/laptop to follow.
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Because of the UI.
It's ugly and unconfortably for use in a enterprise environment.
My right arm pains!
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Although I'm against a corporate roll-out of the Win8 OS, I personally like it very much. It's become my #2 Admin machine (Win7 being #1 with an XP Pro 'just-in-case' machine still sitting on my desk). My feelings against a corporate roll-out aren't as strong, either. Once I gave up (completely) on the touch interface (I really tried it, too, with a gorgeous 24" touch LCD) & went back to the traditional mouse|keyboard I have no problems getting around efficiently. I'm still more comfortable with my Win7 machine, but NOT that much more. I can now envision my 'power users' being able to work in an efficient enterprise environment without all the initial support calls I originally felt it would take. As an OS -- my experience with Win8 is it's a superior product to Win7 structurally. I think a year from now, the Win8 storm will nothing compared to what it is currently.
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No benefit seen. Only cost (*not* a benefit). Windows 8 seems to be targeted to the tablet type market. Business needs to be able to do computing -- possible but unpleasant using a tablet. Why change if it makes (corporate) life harder?
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We've only just upgraded to Windows 7. 8 does not look like a viable business alternative - the phrase 'a sledgehammer to crack a nut' comes to mind!
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I don't want to learn users using computers with new UI.
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I am not planning to. Windows 7 is just ok for me.
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The hardware requirements for Windows 8 is making it not cost effective for us to upgrade at this point in time.
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How can they hope to sell Window 8 to the office enviroment. Brings a whole new meaning to the words "touch typing" There are operations that still require a keyboard!
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We tried W8 on 5 desktops. People after 2 weeks constant moaning moved to W7 and XP.
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we are just migrating to Windows 7...
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we don't see any "must have" applications to justify the cost in a business situation. Might be fun for home use and games.
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Classic shell would help with adoption of Windows 8. Brings back the start menu on Win8. http://sourceforge.net/projects/classicshell/
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we upgraded our enterprise machines recently to Windows 7, so now Windows 8 Migrations not possible.
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Will Use Win * only as a last resort on a desktop PC
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Will probably move to Linux Mint, and
run Windows XP under virtual Box
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The new interface and workflow elements of Windows 8 are counterproductive to IT and most Enterprise users. I have no plans to move to Windows 8 ever.
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Makes Windows ME and Vista look good; visually a disaster.
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Not enough of our applications are compatible with Windows 8 nor IE10
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It is fast, stable, and Works well on non touch devices as well - I see no problem there.
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There is no business reason to do this as none of the new functionality will help you to get the job done. If MS wants to see the future look at Gnome-3 in Linux. The developers made the exact same mistake and users abandoned it in droves.
The solution is simple: Offer the option to return the desktop to the Windows-7 look and feel ( a business edition), and leave the tiles and other detritus for the kids.
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The desktop is visally worse than Win7, wihout Aero. The Tiles and their Fullscreen requirements tick me off. No Windows Mobile support in Visual Studio since VS2008. App have too many limits what they can do. For example with self signed certificates. With Win7 I can use Touch on my Device when I want. With Win8 Im forced to.
I really dont like Win8.
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The desktop is visally worse than Win7 without Aero. The Tiles and the Fullscreen requirement tick me off. No Windows Mobile support in Visual Studio since VS2008. App have too many limits what they can do. For example with self signed certificates. With Win7 I can use Touch on my Device when I want. With Win8 Im forced to.
I really dont like Win8.
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I don't wanna to used it because of it will be slower to my computer
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not in a near futur
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Change for changes sake, is stupid
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Give it a year I think....
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Will not even consider rolling out Windows 8.
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We are not going to roll out Win8 this year -- if ever. Reason: learning curve will be too high (I rolled out Win95 18 years ago -- I know what it will take).

That said -- I like Win8 very much. I don't think the statement "Windows 8 does not work well on non-touch OCs ..." is true. It's become my primary Admin workstation using only mouse & KB. It wasn't until I gave up trying to use my 24" touch screen with it I finally was able to figure out how to effectively get around the OS & get stuff done. It's an excellent OS; every bit as good if not better than Win7 in some cases. But it is different & it takes some time to get used to it (why we won't roll it out to the gen pop as it now is). I don't think Win8 is going to be as popular as Win7 was, but it doesn't deserve the knocks against it the media (most) & uniformed (all) are giving it either.
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not sufficiently compelled to. Mobile apps are sufficient enough to drive me to this ecological upgrade
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Just moved to 7, no plans for 8.
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Perhaps they should have brought out two versions one called Windows 8 touchscreen,
and just Windows 8, that came with the same user menus or similar to Windows 7.
I think the takeup would have been lot faster.
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The learning curve is to steep. There is no way I'm going to ask people to try and learn this OS and hurt there efficiency for several weeks or more.
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No plans to roll out this year but will be evaluating within the IT department.
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Tech reasons I understand, but if as a user you can't learn to work in a new OS environment in half a day you must have rocks in your head.
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